One of the most common frustrations my clients voice is: “[insert person’s name] just doesn’t get it. They don’t get me.”
It can feel incredibly stressful and invalidating to feel like the people closest to you don’t understand your perspective, or simply can’t support you in the ways you desire support. For this reason, I find myself telling people over and over again that they can’t put all their emotional eggs in one proverbial basket. In other words, each person in your life brings something different to the table. While some may not be in a healthy enough place to offer you any type of emotional support, others may be great at say, making you laugh on a difficult day but never really engage in deeper conversations. These are just a few examples, but you get the point.
The biggest frustration comes when people consistently expect a different outcome or type of support from a loved one after one hundred times in a row of them proving themselves unable to provide that type of support. You’ve probably heard the saying that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Well, insanity might be a bit harsh, but I do know that it certainly makes people feel insane when they keep sharing their relationship issues with their mom and she, in turn, keeps making them feel like crap about them.
So how do we avoid this frustration that can lead to anger, anxiety, and resentment? By finding more than one proverbial basket, of course! Allow me to share the three types of people we all need in our lives for emotional support. Keep in mind that one person in your life might be able to fill 1, 2, or even all 3 of these roles. Even so, I’d still recommend thinking of at least three people you can regularly go to for emotional support when the going gets tough.
We all need someone who can build us up when we’re feeling crummy about ourselves or our circumstances. The encourager is someone who has ideally known you a long time, or has at least had the opportunity to see you overcome various trials such that they can remind you of all your past wonderfulness when you’re feeling less than wonderful. This person is caring, compassionate, and they make you feel loved. This person wants to see you succeed. They are your hype man, your cheerleader, your biggest fan. They almost see your success as their own, and they have probably told you more than once already that they are proud of you. They make you feel valued and loved, no matter what you achieve or don’t achieve. Take a moment now and think about who your encourager might be.
The advisor is someone who, well, gives great advice. They are wise, they are rational, they are trustworthy. This person is one whom you find yourself turning to when you simply don’t know what to do, or when you can’t even see all the options you might have in a given situation. They are methodical, and they are probably the advisor for several other people, too. This person keeps a cool, collected temperament most of the time – you don’t have to worry about them leveling up to the same amount of emotion you are feeling…rarely is that helpful! Think about who you often go to for advice…and more importantly, think about the person who has consistently given you the best advice over the years. Keep in mind that the advisor doesn’t have to be able to relate with you in a situation to be an amazing counselor. My BFF is single but has given me some of the best marriage and parenting advice I’ve ever received (thanks, girl!).
I’ve saved the most difficult one for last. As someone who is definitely triggered by criticism, I’m the last person to go looking for someone to challenge me or prove me wrong. However, the role of the challenger isn’t to start arguments with you, or even to play devil’s advocate. The challenger is someone who knows you very well, and has seen you operate at your best and worst. They are adept at enabling you to consider the other person’s feelings without making you feel bad about your own. This is SUCH a tall order, but it is such a gift when you have someone like this in your corner. To be honest, many people rely on a therapist to be their challenger because they are too emotionally tied to the other people in their lives to perceive their perspective as anything but criticism. And as a therapist, I have to admit…the intense emotional conversations tend to go much differently (read: better!) when an objective professional is facilitating it than when they are not. Just sayin.
Ok my friends, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! How easy is it for you to identify these people in your own life? I, for one, am counting my blessings at the motley crew of supporters who have chosen to love me despite my many shortcomings! Much love to you!